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Live CBS 2 broadcast *** Updated x1 ***

Wednesday, Nov 28, 2007

Click here or on the the promo pic below to watch tonight’s live broadcast of CBS 2 News at 10…

If you need a refresher on what this is all about, here is the promotional script for the story we’re tracking…

How would you like a job which pays you $155,000? You don’t have to talk to co-workers, very much, or attend important meetings. And you don’t even have to go to your main office every day.

Sorry, job’s taken by Rod Blagojevich.

CBS2’s Mike Flannery tracked the governor to see how he’s conducting the State of Illinois’ business. And we’ve got one question: If the governor’s not governing, what’s he doing?

“Exposing Blagojevich” tonight at 10, only on CBS2 News

*** UPDATE *** In case you missed the live broadcast, click here for the full script and the video.

- Posted by Rich Miller   63 Comments      


This just in… *** Governor predicts all of his House loyalists will vote for transit bill *** Hoffman claiming to be a “Yes” vote *** HDEMS to see gaming bill tomorrow *** Not looking good ***

Wednesday, Nov 28, 2007

* 1:10 pm - I told subscribers about this problem earlier in the week, but Senate President Emil Jones just confirmed that he doesn’t have enough members in town to even bother calling the mass transit bill, if it somehow makes it out of the House…

Senate President Emil Jones says its outlook is not good.

Jones says the Senate will have too many members gone today and tomorrow to approve the plan if the House passes it.

He also says downstate senators are refusing to support mass transit help unless a deal for road and school construction projects statewide is also reached.

* 1:27 pm - Republican presidential filing begins today in Illinois. Rudy Guiliani and Ron Paul didn’t file delegates at all, and Fred Thompson only filed delegate slates in five districts: 2nd, 3rd, 10th, 17th and 19th. More from the SJ-R.

State Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, who heads the Thompson effort in Illinois, said his candidate’s late entry into the race didn’t leave as much time to collect signatures as some other candidates had.

Joe Becker of Denver, chief legal officer of the Ron Paul campaign, said Illinois delegate and alternate slates will be filed later.

* 1:32 pm - If you’re wondering why session hasn’t started yet, it’s because the leaders are meeting in the governor’s office.

Rep. Jay Hoffman, the governor’s House floor leader, is reportedly at the meeting. Hoffman was telling people yesterday that he would vote “No” on the new transit bill, but the governor’s been putting the arm on him, so he’s now said to be in the “undecided” camp.

As I told subscribers this morning, if Hoffman votes “No,” practically nobody will ever believe that Blagojevich really worked on behalf of this bill.

* 1:36 pm - The House is starting up. Listen or watch here.

*** 1:41 pm *** The governor reportedly told the leaders today that all of his House Democratic loyalists will vote for the transit bill. The House will likely go to caucus soon.

* 1:49 pm - Rep. Gary Hannig, who is sitting in the Speakers chair, was just asked whether the House would conclude business today after caucus and committees, or tomorrow. Said Hannig: “I’m advised that there will be an effort to try and conclude tonight, but that’s not for certain.”

* 1:57 pm - Rep. Mautino just brought up a big issue for Downstate House Democrats: Project reappropriations. Lots of projects didn’t get reappropriated in the final enacted budget this year. It’s just another log to throw on the gigantic pile of what members are demanding for a final solution to this session.

The House has now recessed for caucus and committees.

*** 2:06 pm *** Rep. Jay Hoffman has now confirmed to someone else that he and the governor’s other four ducklings will be voting “Yes” on the transit bill today.

That means all eyes are now on House GOP Leader Cross. If he succecssfully pushes for the bill, then it will likely pass the House and the mess will arrive in the Senate.

*** 3:46 pm *** It looks like we’ll see a gaming bill tomorrow. The House Democrats are planning to caucus on Madigan’s new expansion proposal after the 10 o’clock session.

The plan today, so far, is to run the transit bill after caucus and committees. Right now, it looks like there will be enough HGOP votes to pass this thing, but one can never be certain in this climate, so stay tuned. The Repubs are still caucasing as I write this.

*** 7:25 pm *** Members have been dropping off like flies for the past few hours, and it now appears that not all the governor’s minions are going to be on board as promised, and that several other House members of both parties are turning against the bill. I’ll have more on the “why” in tomorrow’s Capitol Fax.

Leader Cross, who predicted a couple of minutes ago that the transit bailout bill would fail in the House, got an earful in caucus about the absence of a capital bill agreement and has now called for a special session on the topic. Cross’ people say they want the governor to keep members in session as long as it takes until the capital/gaming issue is resolved.

…Adding…
I was a bit in haste when I wrote that House Dems would see a gaming “bill” tomorrow in caucus. They will discuss Speaker Madigan’s proposals. The draft is not yet finalized.

- Posted by Rich Miller   75 Comments      


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Wednesday, Nov 28, 2007

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Question of the day

Wednesday, Nov 28, 2007

* Bruce Ramsey of the Seattle Times had this to say in today’s column….

A few weekends ago, I was flown to the old Virginia House of Burgesses in Williamsburg to be a representative in a kind of assembly. McNeil/Lehrer Productions had chosen 47 people from around the country as part of a program on America in the 21st century. Each of us arrived with the thought, “Why me?” […]

The McNeil/Lehrer folks divided us into four groups to debate resolutions. They further divided us into twos to write the resolutions. My co-conspirator and I were assigned to write a definition of citizenship. In five minutes we came up with this:

Citizenship means to take responsibility for ourselves and our families so that we are not an unnecessary burden on others; to keep abreast of public questions, participate in public deliberations, to speak out when necessary and serve our country in time of need; to live exemplary lives and pass on our values and wisdom to the next generation.

That would be bland enough for unanimity, I thought. But I was wrong. I have read the italicized statement to several folks and asked them to pinpoint the offending clause. So far, none of the conservatives has been able to find it. Liberals see it right away. I think of it as a kind of litmus test.

The offending phrase is, “an unnecessary burden on others.”

That grated on the ear of Lisa Madigan, the Illinois [Attorney General]. It put an unfair onus on the acceptance of help. She moved that the words be taken out.

Question: How would you define “citizenship”?

- Posted by Rich Miller   39 Comments      


Tricky politics *** Updated x4 ***

Wednesday, Nov 28, 2007

* While others may have slobbered over Mayor Daley’s endorsement yesterday of the Blagojevich/Cross mass transit bailout plan, Kurt Erickson kept his head and asked questions

As the General Assembly returns to action Wednesday to deal with a financial bailout of Chicago-area public transit systems, observers say the lack of agreement on other top issues makes it a virtual certainty that the already record-setting overtime session will drag into December, and perhaps beyond.

Along with the mass transit funding, lawmakers are pressing for passage of a statewide construction program. But, there remains no consensus on how to pay for either of those proposals. […]

But, its prospects in the Senate remain dim, with a bloc of downstate lawmakers pledging to reject the bailout if a separate statewide construction program isn’t put on the table.

“I refuse to support one without the other. We need jobs. We need to fix our crumbling schools and bridges,” said Senate Majority Leader Debbie Halvorson, D-Crete, who is running for a seat in Congress.

* But when Daley talks, the Chicago media always plays it up. Don’t get me wrong. Daley is very important. But the actual roll call is much more important, and it’s not there yet…

Mayor Richard Daley Tuesday came out in favor of a measure in Springfield that aims to provide enough money to keep the Chicago Transit Authority running , insisting he’s optimistic about its passage despite questions surrounding its feasibility.

* More

Now that Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) has folded his hand in the legislative poker game that has stalled long-term funding for mass transit, so has Mayor Daley.

Following Madigan’s lead, Daley today endorsed a plan by Gov. Blagojevich and Illinois House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) to redirect at least $385 million a year in state sales taxes on fuel to mass transit. The mayor said he’s optimistic the plan will pass both legislative houses at Wednesday’s special session.

* Listen to all of Daley’s press conference at Chicago Public Radio, or just hit the button below…

* To get a small idea of how politically volatile the new bailout proposal is, read this commentary by former state Rep. Cal Skinner…

Say you are from Downstate, also known as anything outside of the six-county Chicago metropolitan area served by the Regional Transportation Authority.

$385 million [GRF transit bailout] divided by the state’s population of 12,831,970 (Commerce Department figure) is what?

$30.

So, an opponent could send a mailing to a Downstate legislator’s district saying anyone who voted for this deal voted to force a family of four to send $120 to Chicago.

Or robo calls could be made. Even cheaper.

Whatever you may think of Cal, he’s right.

* More transit and session stuff, compiled by Paul…

* Blagojevich’s CTA ‘rescue’ took from other programs

* Editorial: Capitol…your tax dollars at work or maybe not

* Lawmakers could talk road improvements

*** UPDATE 1 *** Metro Networks‘ Springfield bureau chief Ben Yount has an excellent analysis that you can listen to at the Illinois Farm Bureau site or below…

*** UPDATE 2 *** Fox Chicago’s Senior Political Editor Jack Conaty scored an exclusive interview with Speaker Madigan yesterday that I just noticed thanks to a commenter here.

Madigan told Conaty that it was “very, very sad for Illinois government” that some leaders demand a “linkage” between a mass transit bailout and a capital casino plan. Madigan also patted himself on the back for making “a major concession” on the transit issue.

Conaty asked Madigan if we are now “at the end of that unfortunate legislative drama or is this simply one more act?” Madigan’s reply…

“This is simply one more act because of the politics of Rod Blagojevich. The politics of Rod Blagojevich is not a politics of conciliation. It’s a politics of confrontation, conflict.”

“Despite the optimism in Chicago,” Conaty says, “the funding crisis at the CTA is likely to continue.”

Click the pic for Conaty’s full story…

…Adding… Many thanks to Fox Chicago for their prominent placement of my blog on their political news page.

*** UPDATE 3 *** The Tribune editorialized on gaming expansion again today. Take a look.

*** UPDATE 4 *** Cogent analysis from the SJ-R’s editorial board…

For some reason, and we suspect it is about as straightforward as a long Russian novel, Madigan now has decided to abandon the Hamos plan and sign onto a measure being pushed by Blagojevich and House Republican Leader Tom Cross. That plan would rely on about $385 million in existing sales tax money from gasoline receipts in the Chicago area to bail out Chicago transit. But that money is already in the state budget, which means it would either need to be replaced or blow a big old hole in that budget. No one seems to have a plan for replacing the money. The plan is opposed by many for that reason and by others because it does not deal with a capital plan.

We suspect Madigan knows he signed onto a poison pill of a bill. It’s almost sure to die. And, so, if you were hoping for a resolution of this mess as a Christmas present, you better go to the second item on your list. We’re asking Santa to give the feds extra patience in dealing with our screwed-up state so they don’t yank that $6 billion from our stocking.

- Posted by Rich Miller   35 Comments      


Hit on three fronts

Wednesday, Nov 28, 2007

* The governor will probably want to talk about how he’s “saving” mass transit today, but reporters will probably want to ask him about this development as well

A state employee fired for leaking an internal investigative report critical of Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s administration testified Tuesday that he was recently interviewed by FBI agents.

Matthew Magalis, who is trying to win his job back through a civil service proceeding, did not say what federal agents had asked. But he said an FBI investigation is exactly what he was seeking when he decided to give a copy of the report in October 2006 to Christi Parsons of the Chicago Tribune. […]

Magalis said he gave the report to the press instead of the FBI because he feared for his job if it became known that he was cooperating with outside investigators.

“People are retaliated against in my department, so I didn’t want to be part of whatever investigation there was going to be,” said Magalis, who was fired in October from his $82,000-a-year job as an agency administrator after an investigation by the state’s Office of the Executive Inspector General.

* The General Assembly could be in session two days this week. If that’s the case, then reporters will likely press the governor tomorrow about a story which will appear at 10 o’clock tonight on CBS 2. Click the pic for the station’s promo, which is running in heavy rotation…

How would you like a job which pays you $155,000? You don’t have to talk to co-workers, very much, or attend important meetings. And you don’t even have to go to your main office every day.

Sorry, job’s taken by Rod Blagojevich.

CBS2’s Mike Flannery tracked the governor to see how he’s conducting the State of Illinois’ business. And we’ve got one question: If the governor’s not governing, what’s he doing?

“Exposing Blagojevich” tonight at 10, only on CBS2 News

Oof.

I’ve been hearing about this piece for weeks. Apparently, the station staked out the governor’s home and monitored his work habits. We’ll have to wait and see if the hype matches up to the substance, but I’m sure it will be a fun viewing.

I’ve asked the station to provide me with a live link to tonight’s broadcast. So, if you’re outside the Chicago area, check back tonight and you’ll probably be able to watch it right here.

*** UPDATE *** I have the link ready to go and will post it later tonight, so check back.

* And then there’s this

A suburban man filed the first lawsuit against Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s unilateral expansion of state-subsidized health care.

Richard Caro of Riverside charged in his complaint, which was Monday filed in Cook County, that Blagojevich’s expansion of the state’s FamilyCare program is unconstitutional because lawmakers never agreed to appropriate that spending.

- Posted by Rich Miller   50 Comments      


Rate the ads

Wednesday, Nov 28, 2007

* It’s time, once again, to play “Rate the campaign TV ads,” campers. First up, Jay Footlik’s first second TV ad of the season. Footlik is running against fellow Democrat Dan Seals for the right to take on GOP Congressman Mark Kirk…


* Next, we have Democrat Bill Foster’s new ad. Foster is hoping to challenge whatever GOP candidate emerges in retired Congressman Denny Hastert’s district…


* And, finally, Republican Kevin Burns, one of the Republican candidates in the race to replace Hastert…



What do you think of each?

- Posted by Rich Miller   33 Comments      


Morning shorts

Wednesday, Nov 28, 2007

* Some Illinois school keep moment of silence…

Many Metro East educators will continue opening each school day with a moment of silence, rather than trying to predict the outcome of a constitutional showdown over the new state law that may or may not require it.

* Silence law challenged by federal court

* DuPage Co. ‘doomsday’ budget approved

The DuPage County Board voted Tuesday to adopt a “doomsday” budget that calls for cutting 240 jobs, but passed a moratorium that will prevent any layoffs until the results of a Feb. 5 ballot referendum to add one-quarter percent to the county sales tax.

* Stroger floor leader says budget would pass if Todd ‘were a white man’

Commissioner William Beavers said “if Todd was a white man, he wouldn’t have half these problems,” further alleging “this is a remake of the Harold Washington days” at City Hall, where racially fueled votes often ended in 29-21 decisions.

“Who’s gonna control the county — white or black — that’s all this is,” he said.

* Stroger’s take: ‘We are stuck’

* Chicago Public Radio: Cook Co. budget battle continues

* Filing for special election to replace Hastert has already begun

You’d better already be putting together your campaign. Although no one knows yet just when the special election will be held to replace Hastert in the 14th Congressional District, it’s likely already well into the pre-filing period when candidates should be getting their petitions and paperwork together, state election officials said.

So far, the only concrete information anyone has about the special election is that there will be one. Hastert’s resignation on Monday assured that — his exit with one year left on his term demands a special election to replace him for the remainder of that term.

* Quinn wants count of veterans scholarships

Van Der Hooning said he was ordered to cut back the program out of concerns over cost and the worry among some on campus that admitting dozens of “jar heads” would dilute the quality of the MBA program.

The university has disputed Van Der Hooning’s version of events, and denied any university officials made references to jar heads — slang for Marines.

The scholarships, university officials have said, were never meant to be awarded at once, nor all in the Chicago-based executive MBA program. Some of the recipients have been on the Champaign-Urbana campus.

* Opinion: Public suffers if aldermen fail to debate

* Top cop candidate threatens to withdraw if name goes public

* Michael Sneed: Tipsville

Is a U.S. ambassadorship in the offing for former U.S. House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert?

Maybe, maybe not: But Sneed hears rumbles President Bush would like to reward Hastert for his exemplary tenure in office.

Meanwhile: Hastert, who submitted his official resignation Monday, is devoting his time to the Hastert Center at Wheaton College and raising money for incumbent Republican candidates facing a tough race. Example: U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk.

* Tollway to hold hearing on tentative 2008 budget

The $236 million operating budget shows a 5 percent increase over 2007 and provides funds for new customer-service and public-safety projects, as well as additional spending for new road and I-PASS construction.

An additional $230 million in revenue, combined with bond proceeds and other capital reserves, will provide $1.4 billion for the fourth year of the tollway’s rebuilding and widening program.

* Editorial: Checks at casino good way to keep addicts out

* Tribune Editorial: Bring FutureGen to Illinios

* Phil Kadner: A ‘Chose Life’ plate for Illinois

* Illinois farmers enjoy record harvest

- Posted by Paul Richardson   31 Comments      


Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today’s Capitol Fax (Use all caps in password)

Wednesday, Nov 28, 2007

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


This just in… Versace campaign shakeup *** CFL announces endorsements *** Guv raids wrong funds *** Daley gives thumbs up to “deal,” says gaming can wait ***

Tuesday, Nov 27, 2007

* 10:25 am - From what I gather this morning, Versace didn’t have a replacement lined up when Pearson left, so this is a bit odd

Congressional candidate Dick Versace and his campaign manager parted ways Monday.

The decision was mutual and amicable, Versace said. His former campaign manager, Alex Pearson, said he’s worked on numerous campaigns on the local, state and federal level, but declined to officially elaborate on his reasons for the abrupt departure.

* 10:44 am - If I were you, I’d watch CBS 2 tonight tomorrow night (long weekend and Wednesday session start has messed up my time awareness). That is all.

*** UPDATE *** Here’s a teaser. Watch the full report Wednesday at 10 pm.

* 10:48 am - Wyoming is now backing Illinois’ FutureGen bid

Gov. Dave Freudenthal has endorsed Illinois’ bid for a project that aims to refine coal gasification and other “clean” technologies for coal.

Freudenthal indicated his support for Illinois on the FutureGen project because officials there have agreed to share research and other information regarding clean coal technologies.

The administration appears to be doing a pretty good job at lining up support from other states. Rare show of competence?

* 10:54 am - From a press release

Lawyers for Illinois Attorney General, Lisa Madigan and Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, will appear before a three-Judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals this morning at 9 a.m. to urge that a lower court ruling that Illinois begin producing “Choose Life” specialty license plates be overturned. The argument will take place in the appellate courtroom on the 27th floor of the Dirksen Federal Building at 219 South Dearborn Street – the corner of Adams and Dearborn Streets – in downtown Chicago. Each side will argue for twenty minutes before three appellate Judges, whose identities are never disclosed until the morning of the oral argument.

* 11:55 am - The Chicago Federation of Labor released its endorsement list today. I didn’t include the judge list, but Anne Burke was endorsed for Supreme Court. Dean T. Maragos, Kathleen Therese Meany and Cynthia Santos (the wife of Rep. Rich Bradley) got the nod for MWRD. Joe Berrios and Larry Rogers, Jr. were endorsed for the Board of Review.

The CFL endorsed Tom Allen for State’s Attorney, “because of his long record of fighting on behalf of working families as a Public Defender, attorney in private practice, and member of the Chicago City Council where he has served since 1993.”

Here are the rest…

* Dorothy Brown - Clerk of the Circuit Court
* Eugene “Gene” Moore - Cook County Recorder of Deeds

* Bob Fioretti – 2nd Ward Committeeman
* Pat Dowell – 3rd Ward Committeeman
* Sandi Jackson – 7th Ward Committeeman
* Toni L. Foulkes – 15th Ward Committeeman
* JoAnn Thompson – 16th Ward Committeeman
* Willie B. Cochran – 20th Ward Committeeman
* Sharon Denise Dixon – 24th Ward Committeeman
* John A. Fritchey – 32nd Ward Committeeman
* John Corrigan – 42nd Ward Committeeman
* Patrick J. Levar – 45th Ward Committeeman

*** 1:37 pm *** I heard the AP folks were working on this yesterday. Apparently, the governor is taking money from at least two different bond series than he said he would…

State records show that Governor Rod Blagojevich propped up Chicago mass transit systems with money intended for other purposes.

The Chicago Transit Authority and its suburban counterpart were about to run out of money earlier this month when Blagojevich gave them $27 million while lawmakers try to reach a permanent solution.

Aides at the time said the grant was coming from money set aside for railroad and rapid transit systems. But Blagojevich took $22 million from money reserved for bricks-and-mortar construction, highways and energy projects.

The story goes on to say that the governor’s office won’t respond to inquiries about the apparently illegal skim. Huh. Imagine that.

What he’s done here is raided cash from bond funds that have nothing to do with public transportation. This won’t exactly help his cause with Downstate legislators who are already worried about the prospect of using GRF money for his proposed transit bailout.

*** UPDATE *** The AP has added to its original brief…

The $27 million technically is from a bond fund set up for mass transit and aviation projects. But only $4.6 million was in that account to start.

The day he announced the stopgap, Blagojevich transferred $10.2 million in bond money reserved for coal development and alternative energy projects, $7.4 million for highway construction and $4.8 million for general building projects.

*** 1:51 pm *** Daley’s endorsement of the transit “deal” means more pressure will now be exerted on Gov. Blagojevich to release his five House Democratic votes tomorrow, and on Senate President Emil Jones, who is facing stiff opposition in his caucus to doing any transit deal before a capital bill is finalized…

Following Madigan’s lead, [Mayor] Daley today endorsed a plan by Gov. Blagojevich and Illinois House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) to redirect at least $385 million a year in state sales taxes on fuel to mass transit. The mayor said he’s optimistic the plan will pass both legislative houses at Wednesday’s special session.

Hizzoner also appeared to back Speaker Madigan’s refusal to hurry up a deal on the gaming bill, which will provide cash for the capital plan…

But, the mayor said a casino deal that has eluded the General Assembly for more than a decade cannot be pulled together during a special session.

“It’s very complicated - especially when you go into the casino issue. It’s very, very complicated,” he said.

* 2:48 pm - Funny, touching tribute to the late John Drury [Another one is here]…



- Posted by Rich Miller   61 Comments      


Question of the day - Marriage

Tuesday, Nov 27, 2007

* Stephanie Coontz, the author of “Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage,” penned this interesting and eye-opening Op-Ed in the New York Times the other day….

Why do people — gay or straight — need the state’s permission to marry? For most of Western history, they didn’t, because marriage was a private contract between two families. The parents’ agreement to the match, not the approval of church or state, was what confirmed its validity.

For 16 centuries, Christianity also defined the validity of a marriage on the basis of a couple’s wishes. If two people claimed they had exchanged marital vows — even out alone by the haystack — the Catholic Church accepted that they were validly married. […]

Not until the 16th century did European states begin to require that marriages be performed under legal auspices. In part, this was an attempt to prevent unions between young adults whose parents opposed their match.

The American colonies officially required marriages to be registered, but until the mid-19th century, state supreme courts routinely ruled that public cohabitation was sufficient evidence of a valid marriage. By the later part of that century, however, the United States began to nullify common-law marriages and exert more control over who was allowed to marry.

By the 1920s, 38 states prohibited whites from marrying blacks, “mulattos,” Japanese, Chinese, Indians, “Mongolians,” “Malays” or Filipinos. Twelve states would not issue a marriage license if one partner was a drunk, an addict or a “mental defect.” Eighteen states set barriers to remarriage after divorce.

And her conclusion…

Perhaps it’s time to revert to a much older marital tradition. Let churches decide which marriages they deem “licit.” But let couples — gay or straight — decide if they want the legal protections and obligations of a committed relationship.

* Question: Do you agree with this reasoning? Explain. And try to stay civil. Thanks.

[Hat tip: Governing.com]

- Posted by Rich Miller   51 Comments      


Our broken national media

Tuesday, Nov 27, 2007

* This item in a Boston Globe story tells us a lot about trusting the national media’s polls in Iowa…

In making [caucus turnout] projections, campaigns rely above all on their “hard count,” a tally of voters who have pledged to support them, and a list of previous caucusgoers made available for sale by the state party.

But no media organization is believed to have purchased such a list, so instead of knowing who has participated in past caucuses - considered the best indicator of turnout - pollsters are random-dialing households and asking voters whether they have voted before and how interested they are in the current race.

Iowa’s goofy process is drastically different than a traditional primary. You have to go to a neighbor’s house and openly declare your support for a candidate. So you’d think the media’s polling methods would be different. They’re not. Oops.

Thoughts on the race so far?

- Posted by Rich Miller   21 Comments      


Transit roundup

Tuesday, Nov 27, 2007

* I looked through today’s mass transit “deal” stories to find a different angle than we used yesterday, and figured this was as good a place to lead off our coverage as any…

As a high school choir sang “Winter Wonderland” at a tree-lighting ceremony at the Thompson Center Monday, a group of activists tried to drown them out, chanting “Tree lights out, bus lights on!”

The 10 ministers and wheelchair-bound CTA riders crashed the tree lighting, hosted by first lady Patti Blagojevich, to demand action in Springfield on the CTA funding shortfall. […]

“We’re here to tell elected officials enough is enough,” said Roosevelt Watkins, pastor at Bethlehem Star Church and a member of Pastors United for Change. “How can we sing Christmas carols when we know 2,400 people will lose their jobs?”

I don’t know much about that group, but it is a bit different. Rev. Watkins hosted a forum for Hillary Clinton in May, for instance, which allowed her to claim African-American support in Barack Obama’s home turf.

* Anyway, back to transit. Like I said, there’s not much “new” here if you were on the blog yesterday afternoon. Gatehouse

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan now supports a mass transit funding plan backed by House Republicans and Gov. Rod Blagojevich — but the Chicago Democrat’s change of heart still may not be enough to get the transit bailout put into law.

Downstate Senate Democrats reiterated Monday that they will not support any mass transit plan until the General Assembly also approves a public works construction bill.

* Sun-Times

While Madigan now appears more in lockstep with Blagojevich and other legislative leaders about transit funding, his letter was silent about how to backfill the $385 million budget hole that redirecting gas-tax dollars to the RTA would leave. That’s among a host of issues that could derail the transit-bailout train in Springfield.

Madigan’s spokesman, Steve Brown, said the speaker intends to work with Blagojevich to fill the gas-tax hole by ending corporate tax breaks.

Other lawmakers have suggested that new forms of gambling — including a Chicago casino, additional casinos outside Chicago and slot machines at horse tracks — could plug that gap and also fund a multibillion-dollar state construction program for roads, schools and other projects.

David Dring, a top Cross aide, was cautiously optimistic about Madigan’s new stance but stressed the construction program still has to be part of the overall transit-funding equation.

* Bethany Jaeger adds to this…

As far as plugging the hole in the state’s general fund, Madigan’s spokesman, Steve Brown, mentioned the governor’s proposal to end some corporate tax breaks. “The speaker has been supportive of closing corporate loopholes in the past,” Brown said. “I suspect it’ll be something that will be addressed down the road. I don’t envision that being addressed this week.” He said the state Constitution limits the legislature to discussing a specific topic designated by the special session.

* Tribune

RTA Executive Director Steve Schlickman said it was too soon to tell if Madigan’s move is a breakthrough.

* Mark Brown had an interesting take today

If the House can approve the transit funding proposal Wednesday, when Blagojevich has called the Legislature into special session, that will put the onus on the Senate, where leaders of both parties have indicated a transit measure will go nowhere without the accompanying construction program.

If all they’re worried about is who should take the blame, that’s easy.

Blame Mayor Daley. It really is mostly his fault that it’s come to this point, which probably hasn’t been emphasized enough.

He’s the one who continued to milk the agency for its political patronage benefits while failing to grasp the depth of its problems or at least to treat them with the proper urgency until the system came to the brink of collapse. It’s his crisis more than theirs.

Blame Daley and move on.

Daley has effectively skirted blame in this mess, so Brown is right that some fingers ought to start pointing at hizzoner.

* Sen. Dale Righter puts his own spin on the situation…

What is the solution? First, the service reductions and fare increases that transit officials have warned us about should be implemented — they would be far from the catastrophe that the “doomsday” rhetoric has led some to believe. In fact, they consist of entirely reasonable and necessary fare increases of approximately 10%, and elimination of duplicative routes. After that is achieved, the systems’ compensation and oversight structures must change — they have become bloated and ineffective, as demonstrated by last year’s fire and the resulting NTBS findings. Then, and only after then, should there be a serious discussion of additional funding.

* But the CTA Tattler counters some of that logic…

[GOP Rep. Sandy Cole of Grayslake] makes this spurious argument in favor of a fare increase:

“”Between 2001 and 2006, the price of gasoline has increased 68 percent, but CTA cash fares have only increased 15 percent. It is fair to expect riders to pay for increased fares, just like motorists have to pay more for gasoline.”

Carfree Chicago has a good retort to that argument in comments on a post about the subject at Illinois Transportation Issues:

“Why should transit riders be punished for using an efficient form of transportation not affected as much by the shifts in the price of gasoline? Trains don’t run on gasoline. It justs sounds like pure whining — we have to pay more so you should too!”

I’d like the Republicans to fully show their cards on what that fare increase should look like.

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller   37 Comments      


Morning shorts

Tuesday, Nov 27, 2007

* Change of Subject: Song parody contest calls for entries. Plus, review of entries so far

* Daily Herald’s in-depth look at Illinois education:

Chapters:
One
Two
Three
Four
Five
Six
Seven
Eight
Nine
Ten

* Lawsuit stirs debate over program that some say leads to ‘academic bankruptcy’

But legislatures are starting to get involved — at least at the public school level — because of financial issues, Nassirian said. The more times a student can withdraw from a class or get grades forgiven, it “may induce existing students to sort of hang around” as perpetual students, he said.

That means the state is paying more for a frequent-repeater student’s education than someone who goes straight through. Meanwhile, eligible students trying to enroll can’t get in because the seats are full.

“So it becomes a kind of subsidy issue,” Nassirian said.

In Texas, the legislature recently voted to limit students to six withdrawals during a student’s career, Nassirian said.

* Kadner: A primary election on Christmas Day?

The oddity was first noticed by my SouthtownStar colleague, John Hector, who was glancing at the State of Illinois Candidates Guide for 2008 when a date jumped out at him.

Under a category labeled “Annual Municipal Election,” there was a subsection marked “Municipal Primary (if required) … Dec. 25, 2007.

“As far as I know, no one else in the state has noticed that,” said an official at the state elections board. “And I mean every candidate in Illinois looks at that thing. How the heck did you spot it?”

* Deadline changed for write-in filing in Will Co.

* New Politics Institute: Social networking as 2007 campaign tool

By leveraging “friend” connections and using virtual “word-of-mouth” marketing, these social sites offer an opportunity to break through the media cacophony. On sites like Facebook, trusted people spread political messages in a way only dreamed of in the age of mass media.

Social technology assists politicos and advocacy organizations in five key areas – branding, voter registration, fundraising, volunteering, and voter turnout.

* Bridget in the 6th: Even Tony Peraica gets it

I’m not a big fan of Tony Peraica, but I have to say that I am impressed that he had the cajones to do his own damn petition challenge against the other Republican running for Cook County States Attorney.

* Tribune Editorial: Getting through to the Stroger 9

First, this is the holiday season, when local governments often get away with unpopular outrages because some citizens are too busy to protest loudly.

Second, Stroger knows that — unless pressure from voters changes one or two minds — soon — he probably can pass big tax increases. Nine of the 17 County Board members have told the Tribune in recent weeks that they think Stroger’s government needs more revenue from taxes.

* Lack of support may postpone vote on Stroger’s $888 million tax plan

* Clout Street: Vote on Stroger tax hike plan may be delayed

* Editorial: State auditor should dig out duplication

Auditor General William Holland found out there is no master list of programs operated by state agencies.

Holland sought such a list at the request of the Legislative Audit Commission, which wanted to see whether services were being duplicated by more than one agency or program. But before Holland could get to that stage, he had to ask each agency for a list of their programs; there was no master list.

His request turned up about 1,750 programs - and Holland suspects the list is incomplete.

* Lawmakers in Illinois hear about nursing home buyout; more here

A panel of Illinois lawmakers on Monday was urged to scrutinize closely the pending sale of 31 Illinois nursing homes to a private-equity firm.

The hearing of the state’s House Committee on Aging centered on Washington, D.C.-based Carlyle Group’s $6.3-billion leveraged buyout of Toledo, Ohio-based Manor Care Inc. Manor Care operates more than 500 nursing homes and other facilities nationally, including 31 Illinois facilities that care for a total of 3,500 residents.

* Hastert resignation now official- gives Gov just enough time to schedule primary on Feb. 5th; more here and here

* GOP leaders, contenders laud Hastert’s hard work

* Wurfwhile: 14-CD candidate burns TV ad seems stiff, won’t get job done

* PrairieStateBlue: Roundup of Congressional race in IL-03

* Open Minds blog: Green party congressional candidate posts youtube videos

* Jackson says ‘unscrupulous lenders targeting minorities’

* Black Sox archives suddenly surfaces- another reminder why we all should support the North Siders :-)

- Posted by Paul Richardson   14 Comments      


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Tuesday, Nov 27, 2007

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


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